Labor and Public Employees Committee
JOINT FAVORABLE REPORT
AN ACT PROMOTING A FAIR, CIVIL AND HARASSMENT-FREE WORKPLACE.
Disclaimer: The following Joint Favorable Report is prepared for the benefit of the members of the General Assembly, solely for purposes of information, summarization and explanation and does not represent the intent of the General Assembly or either chamber thereof for any purpose.
SPONSORS OF BILL:
Rep. Joe Aresimowicz
Rep. Matthew Ritter
Sen. Martin Looney
Sen. Bob Duff
REASONS FOR BILL:
Men and women have been reporting their experiences of sexual harassment in the workplace.
RESPONSE FROM ADMINISTRATION/AGENCY:
Dannel P. Malloy, Governor, State of Connecticut: In recent months, awareness of sexual harassment in the workplace has skyrocketed. It is incumbent for every employer to examine its culture, training and prevention efforts as well as existing protections and reporting processes in order to identify opportunities for improvement.
Scott Jackson, Commissioner, Department of Labor, State of Connecticut: Commissioner Jackson's testimony told of Anita Hill, who in 1991, share her story of harassment in front of the entire nation. The televised Senate Judiciary Committee hearing dismissed her accusations against Clarence Thomas, who is now a U.S. Supreme Court Justice. Since her humiliation, many companies started programs to deter sexual harassment. Such training should include the types of conduct that constitute harassment and methods to prevent it.
Kevin Lembo, State Comptroller, State of Connecticut: Many brave women have come forward from virtually every industry with stories of sexual harassment and other abuses in the workplace. It is a clear call for action and this legislation will deliver a new era of protection, education and awareness to eliminate a culture of harassment that has been unconscionably allowed to persist for centuries.
Sen. Marilyn Moore, Senator, State of Connecticut: Although her testimony was primarily focused on another bill, Sen. Moore also included her support for this bill.
Kim Rose, Representative, State of Connecticut: Rep. Rose said sexual harassment in the workplace is all too common. Some victims hardly recognize it anymore, and even fewer are inclined to speak out. This allows the harasser to continue the behavior on other victims. By requiring non-supervisory employees to be trained in addition to their supervisors, invaluable information is gained so all employees learn how to recognize sexual harassment and how to report it.
Jillian Gilchrest, Board Member, Permanent Commission on the Status of Women: After forming CT's Family and Medical Leave Insurance Coalition, she studied the issues and found fair wages, a harassment-free workplace and pay equity are all essential policies that help women's earnings which are critical to economic growth. Women should not be harassed during the work day.
Tanya Hughes, Executive Director, Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities:
Requiring information and training for every new supervisor within six months of assuming a supervisory role and receiving periodic updates every five years is a critical step in the fight against workplace harassment. Recent movements such as #MeToo and #TimesUp have created a way for people to call attention to the many forms of harassment, inequality and incivility that occur in some workplaces.
Cheryl Sharp, Deputy Director, Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities: Such movements as #MeToo and #TimesUp have focused an especially bright spotlight on demeaning and discriminatory conduct. This has been for a long time and will not cease without action. This is a critical step in the fight against workplace harassment.
NATURE AND SOURCES OF SUPPORT:
Catherine Bailey, Deputy Director, CT's Women's Education and Legal Fund:
Her testimony said sexual harassment in the workplace threatens workers' economic survival, leads to job and wage losses, legal fees, detachment from the workforce and less income for families. It often affects individuals' physical and emotional wellbeing and has a psychological impact on the targets. These include anxiety, depression, negative body image and lowered self-esteem. It can also result in physical effects such as headaches, sleep disorders, weight loss/gain and nausea.
Brenna Doyle, Deputy Director, NARAL Pro-Choice Connecticut: Despite the increased emphasis on the problem nationally, the prevalence of sexual harassment in the workplace is not a new phenomenon. It continues to have a dangerous, and has dangerous and negative effects, particularly on women. It is economically disentrancing and psychologically damaging.
Joelle Fishman, Connecticut Communist Party USA: While not addressing sexual harassment directly, Ms. Fishman said several bills would provide answers and give the state a significant economic boost by addressing shameful and unsustainable inequality. Instead of getting stuck on trickle-down austerity measures that actually widen disparities; the legislature should enact structural changes that would benefit all sectors of our economy.
Julie Kushner, Director, United Automobile, Aerospace &Agricultural Implement Workers of America: The revelations of the “MeToo” movement make it clear that every woman has faced harassment at some level during her life. This means every woman and every man or their wives, sisters, mothers and/or daughters have been affected. The non-discrimination laws don't go far enough and now is the time to demonstrate to young women just entering the workforce that sexual harassment will not be tolerated and they will be protected if they report it.
Ned Lamont, Businessman: He quoted Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, who said “It may be true that the law cannot change the heart but it can restrain the heartless”. The power of the #MeToo movement and the courage of women everywhere who have stood up and spoken out about sexual harassment has begun to change hearts and it is now our responsibility to ensure the heartless are restrained.
Mary Lee Kiernan, President & CEO, Greenwich YWCA , Board Member, Permanent Commission of the Statues of Women in CT: Our nation is experiencing long overdue reckoning with regard to sexual assault and harassment. The data painfully demonstrates the problem is pervasive, continuous and ongoing at a time when many believed we had moved on, especially from overt forms of quid-pro-quo harassment. It has a negative effect on victims who experience emotional trauma and financial harm as well as on businesses due to lower productivity, higher turnover and monetary settlements and judgments.
Aili McKeen, Wallingford, CT: Over the course of her career, she has left four jobs due to intolerable sexual harassment. Those most targeted are those powerless to fight it. Although women are most targeted, all genders suffer from harassment. This bill will help protect a wider spectrum of workers.
Carlos Moreno, State Director, CT Working Families Organization: Sexual harassment in the workplace overwhelmingly goes unreported. The mental anguish that stems from it is unacceptable. This legislation will create a more respectful and productive work environment.
Lara Da Costa and Bonnie Odiorne, Brazilian Workers Center, Bridgeport: Everyone deserves a 'fair, civil and harassment-free workplace'. However, this bill calls for protection only for workplaces where there are three or more employees. This creates legislation that leaves domestic workers unprotected. These employees are typically women and they are more vulnerable to harassment than other workers. They support the bill, but urge clarification to reduce the number of protected workers from three to one so everyone can enjoy the protection they deserve.
Analis Quintman, Hamden Resident: Women all across America have had enough. CT must lead the way and this bill is a step in the right direction. Join this century, make a difference and stand up for what is right. Help stop sexual harassment in the workplace.
NATURE AND SOURCES OF OPPOSITION:
Bill Ethier, Chief Executive officer, Home Builders & Remodelers Association of Connecticut, Inc.: He referred to Eric Gjede's testimony (CBIA), supporting their position that this bill needs changing since it places more cost burdens on CT's businesses. The direction of the bill is well-intentioned, but the alternative proposal suggested by CBIA would help employers develop a discipline procedure for those who commit acts of workplace harassment.
Eric Gjede, Counsel, CT Business and Industry Association: Although CBIA appreciates the intent; Eric raised some points for consideration and suggested alternative language to achieve the goal of harassment-free workplaces. It may be beneficial to expand the harassment training requirements for supervisors to smaller businesses, but they have concerns about ALL employees receiving the training. It can be very expensive and loses production hours during mandated sessions every 5 years. Businesses are already required to post notices and told how to report incidents. They offered substitute language to fix the disparity of employers who are suspended without pay and salaried employees who have the same violation. Now, the law treats people who commit violation differently solely based on how they are paid. The potential costs of the bill could be high and they offered substitute language that would be a less expensive alternative that would provide tools to enforce the rules already on the books.
Reported by: Marie Knudsen
Date: March 26, 2018